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Does visual processing speed affect intelligence and cognition?

We see it in the lines etched into our faces and watch our middles expand. We feel it in our dwindling energy reserves and the aches we experience as we roll out of bed each morning. Our bodies change as we age. Our minds do too.

Researchers who study how aging affects our intelligence and cognition have learned information processing speeds are a huge factor. However, according to Dr. Stuart Richie, a lead study author from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, visual processing speed also plays a highly important role.

In other words, people who are able to quickly interpret what their eyes see are more likely to stay mentally acute for a longer period of time. According to Medical News Today, the study “tested more than 600 people for visual processing at ages 70, 73 and 76. Study participants were part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, a group of people born in 1936 and who took part in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947. During the course of the survey, the individuals were tested on changes in reasoning, memory, thinking speed, fitness, eyesight, blood composition and genetics.”

Researchers used a test that flashes one of two shapes on a screen then measured how long each person needed in order to accurately distinguish one shape from the other. Then, the team compared the visual test results with intelligence tests taken by the study participants at the same ages. Results showed intelligence levels decreased as the brain encountered more difficulty in making accurate conclusions based on visual information.

“The results suggest that the brain’s ability to make correct decisions based on brief visual impressions limits the efficiency of more complex functions. As this basic ability declines with age, so too does general intelligence. The typical person who has better-preserved complex thinking skills in old age tends to be someone who can accumulate information quickly from a fleeting glance,” said Richie. The findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.

A relatively unknown carotenoid called zeaxanthin might be of service. A study conducted by the University of Georgia revealed that dietary zeaxanthin intake can increase visual processing skills in young, healthy athletes. These individuals were studied as they are at the peak of their cognitive and visual processing prime. If supplementation of dietary zeaxanthin can affect a change in their visual performance and reaction times, imagine what it could do for older adults. Stay tuned…


To learn more, check out this webinar:

Visual performance benefits of zeaxanthin


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